A deadly hypothesis denying that Moses had anything to do with Genesis, based on spurious scholarship, is still widely being taught to future Christian leaders.

Nearly all liberal Bible colleges and seminaries, and sadly some which profess conservative evangelical doctrine, approvingly teach the ‘documentary hypothesis’, also known as the ‘JEDP hypothesis’.

What is the documentary hypothesis?

This is the liberal/critical view which denies that Moses wrote Genesis to Deuteronomy. It teaches that various anonymous authors compiled these five books (plus other portions of the Old Testament) from centuries of oral tradition, up to 900 years after Moses lived (if, in this view, he even existed). These hypothetical narrators are designated as follows:

  • J (standing for what the documentary hypothesists would term Jahwist) supposedly lived about 900–850 BC. He/she/they allegedly gathered the myths and legends of Babylon and other nations, and added them to the ‘camp-fire stories’ of the Hebrews, producing those biblical passages where the Hebrew letters YHWH (‘Jehovah’) are used as the name of God.
  • E (standing for Elohist) supposedly lived about 750–700 BC in the northern kingdom (Israel), and wrote those passages where ’Elohim is used as the word for God.
  • D supposedly wrote most of Deuteronomy, probably the book found in the temple in Jerusalem in 621BC. (2 Kings 22:8).
  • P supposedly represents a Priest (or priests) who lived during the exile in Babylon and allegedly composed a code of holiness for the people.
  • Various editors R (from German Redakteur) supposedly put it all together.

The idea of multiple authorship of these books was first proposed by Jean Astruc in Paris in 1753. However, the foremost exponent was Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918), who ‘restated the Documentary Hypothesis … in terms of the evolutionary view of history which was prevalent in philosophical circles at the time’.1,2 He claimed that those parts of the Old Testament that dealt with sophisticated doctrine (one God, the Ten Commandments, the tabernacle, etc.) were not truth revealed by the living God, but were ideas that evolved from lower stages of thinking, including polytheism, animism, ancestor worship, etc.3 Hence the ‘need’ to find or fabricate later authors. One of the main arguments was that writing had supposedly not been invented yet at the time of Moses.

Thus the documentary hypothesis undermines the authenticity of the Genesis Creation/Fall/Flood accounts, as well as the whole patriarchal history of Israel. It presupposes that the whole of the Old Testament is one gigantic literary fraud, and calls into question not only the integrity of Moses, but also the trustworthiness/divinity of Jesus (see point 5 below). No wonder the critics have embraced it so warmly!….

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